Bessie Smith – a new beginning

16 10 2009

This is the beginning of a new series. But I’ll be going slower this time. So these will not be as frequent. Its a series on female jazz singers. I have started this some time ago and this is my &^#%th rewrite. I’m also trying to do illustrations for each so this will slow things up even more. And I am still doing another blog Hallidd which takes up my time. With each piece I will include a utube song from that performer. And so we begin.



Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937)

Life is a room with an empty bed. Where the sheets are tucked in too tight. And the wind is slipping through the crack in the wall.

Born old. At 9. Momma disappeared. With the silent man in the photograph. A part-time Baptist. Some-time preacher. Who taught that God too had his wrath.

Busking. Street corners. In front of the White Elephant Saloon. Her brother, Andrew, laughed at the mourning fools who sucked up the lazy light. Bessie kept her knees shiny. Played a celestial harp. The hardwood floors told their own tale. Sometimes she fell asleep singing Send me to the ‘lectric chair.

The Titanic left Queenstown Ireland for NY. The mayor was there. Bessie married a security guard. On the other side of the lake. She loved Mr. Gee. They fought like cats. Ate the dog. That kept the night awake.

15 young women. Fired by Curtis Publishing. For dancing the “Turkey Trot”.

Something was swinging in Bessie’s bowl. It made her smile. She stuck her tongue inside. Overnight.

Sitting in a bar. Cursing the bartender. His nice white shirt and lipstick smile. Beer in her hand. And a cigarette. And a ragged rage in her voice. And something sweet. She loved a woman from the East Coast.

Almost six feet tall. Almost 200 pounds. A bottle and glass. Between her legs. There must be a man somewhere. With something useful in his hand.

Piano keys. Notes tripping over themselves. I don’t want to see that sun go down alone.

The audience was drunk. Dinner finished. Drinks coming. The band was jumping.  Jack Johnson TKO’d Jim Flynn. In 9. The heavyweight boxing title. Bessie laughed so loud when Flynn cried out. I can hardly stand up for falling down.

Like the levees had burst. Waiters rushing in. Like their tips were on the line. Smoke swilling the air. Lungs doing what they were told. Poetry in her lips. Give me the darkness and the smell of his hair.

Accidents happen every day.

A meteorite. 190 kg. Explodes. 16,000 pieces of debris rain down on Holbrook, Arizona. Gale Storm thought it was hale.

Bessie’s was with her lover. Poor old Richard. The car rolled over. Crushed poor Bessie’s legs. White hospital was sorry. No blacks today. Quota used up.

At the black hospital Bessie was taken in. Poor Bessie was buried anyway. Fans collected money for her tombstone. Her husband, Jack, put it in his pant pocket. The dead got no worries. The living got to take care of themselves.



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